TOWSON, Md. - Steven Rastivo had to earn his MVP award the hard way.
The Penn State-bound goalie made nine saves in the second half of the North's 13-12 victory Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium, but it was the final one that had everyone talking after the game.
With his North team clinging to a one-goal lead with less than a minute to play, the South broke from a timeout with possession and one last chance to tie the game.
The play resulted in South attackman Joe Cummings cradling the ball at the mouth of the crease, alone with Rastivo. Cummings had been a hero in the same situation last year, taking home MVP of the Under Armour underclassmen game, but this time the Maryland-bound sniper had met his match.
He fired low, but Rastivo kicked his foot out and blocked the shot. The ball ricocheted high into the air, and the goalie from Ward Melville (South Setauket, N.Y.) pulled it in like a lazy fly ball to essentially seal the win for the North.
"He came out from behind a man, so it was hard to pick him up at first," Rastivo said of the save. "I did my best to find his stick. The shot went low, and I just flipped my foot out and made the stop."
The North called its final timeout, and Rastivo's teammates were waiting to mob him when he reached the sideline.
"I kind of knew we had the win at that point," said North middie Michael Chanenchuk, who played high school at St. Anthony's (Setauket, N.Y.) and knew Rastivo growing up. "To tell you the truth, I knew he was going to make the save. He always does."
It was a fitting ending for a player who kept the North in the game while they battled back from a 7-4 halftime deficit. Restivo did a lot of his heavy lifting in the third quarter, when he made six saves and held the South to a single goal. The North won the frame, 5-1, and set the stage for the dramatic fourth quarter finish.
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Brennan and Smith power North girls
With the amount of talent on the field for the girls' All-America game, it's no surprise that the contest came down to the last possession.
All 10 girls ranked in the ESPN RISE Class of 2008 Top 10 were in action for the Under Armour Classic, and two of them played a huge part in the North coming away with a dramatic victory.
No. 2 Shannon Smith and No. 6 Erin Brennan did most of the damage for the North, combining for eight goals on the day, and the duo came up big when it mattered most.
Down, 12-11, late in the game, Smith wriggled free along the side of the net and received a pass from the top. She ducked her shoulder under a late-arriving defender, executed a picture-perfect jump cut into the middle and buried a point-blank shot to tie the score.
"I'm used to doing that move," said Smith, an attack who tallied 129 goals for West Babylon (N.Y.) this season. "It worked for me during the season, so I figured why not keep doing what I'm doing?"
Smith's sweet maneuver tied the game, and Brennan gave the North the lead with a blistering shot from the top of the circle with 1:15 to play.
Brennan controlled the ball on the right side about 18 yards out, drove to the middle and fired a low laser past South goalie Alisa Konishi (J.K. Mullen, Littleton, Colo.).
"I'm used to that spot," said Brennan. "I always shoot from there because I'm a lefty. I saw it open up and I let it go. It was a lucky shot."
Whether luck or skill, Brennan's performance (four goals, one assist) earned her the game's MVP award. For the 5-foot-6 attack from Garden City (N.Y.), it was the perfect ending to a great weekend.
"I couldn't ask for anything more," said Brennan, a Penn signee. "Every girl here is an awesome player, and I tried to do whatever I could to help the team win. I think I played as well as I could."
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Rommel nets game-winner
The game-winning goal in the boys' game was scored by Tim Rommel, a 6-foot-2 midfielder from Henninger (Syracuse, N.Y.). The Rutgers signee came down the right side, threaded his way to the middle and beat South goalie Andrew Wascavage.
Rommel's rocket gave the North a 13-12 lead with 57 seconds to play.
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Goal of the night
Chanenchuk led the way offensively for the boys' North team, scoring three times, one of which counted as the highlight goal of the night.
With the South leading, 7-5, early in the third quarter, Chanenchuk took a pass at the top of the circle and loaded up for a long blast. A South defender ran at him, however, so Chanenchuk pump-faked and stepped in for a closer look.
Another defender converged, so the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder spun around him and fired a low screamer just as he received a de-cleating hit from another South player.
The ball deflected off South goalie Andrew Wascavage (St. Mary's Ryken, Drayden, Md.), bounced in the air, and deflected off him again before bounding into the net.
"I'm just doing whatever I can to get the shot off," said Chanenchuk, a Princeton signee who scored 38 goals for St. Anthony's this season. "I got hit right as I let it go, and I got up just in time to see it dribble in. Hey, I'll take it."
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Owen lives up to No. 1 billing
Josie Owen, the top girl in the ESPN RISE Class of 2008 rankings, played a solid game for the South team. The Virginia-bound midfielder finished with a goal and two assists, and she helped spark the South's second-half comeback, though it eventually came up short.
Trailing, 9-3, early in the second, Owen led a charge that saw the South score four unanswered goals, and nine of 11 at one point, to take a 12-11 lead.
"I think if we played the whole game like we played the second half, we definitely could have been more competitive," Owen said. "But I'm proud of the way everyone fought to get back in the game."
Owen, who scored 37 goals and picked up 36 assists this year at Severn (Severna Park, Md.), was also impressed with the talent level on the field.
"Everyone was so fast, it scared me at first," she said. "But it was really fun to compete against the best players in the country. This is what it's going to be like in college, and against a lot of these same players, so I definitely had fun out there."
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Wilson displays all-around game
The boys' South team was led by the trio of Colby Wilson, Jake Bernhardt and Roy Lang, all of whom scored a pair of goals.
Wilson, a Georgetown signee, flashed a versatile game from his attack position. In addition to his scoring, he collected two ground balls and forced a game-high six turnovers.
"This experience was great," said the 5-foot-9, 160 pounder from Western Reserve Academy (Hudson, Ohio). "They said it would be the best of the best here, and it's true. Everyone here could play at a high level."
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Stop in the name of LoManto
Girls' North Team goalie Brianne LoManto made one of the biggest plays of the game when she came stopped a South shooter on the doorstep in the closing minutes.
Clinging to a 13-12 lead with 40 seconds to play, LoManto had to save the game when South midfielder Ally Carey received a pass just to the side of the net.
LoManto moved from post-to-post and quickly closed down any opening. Carey, the No. 3 player in the ESPN RISE Class of 2008 rankings, scored 52 goals for John Carroll (Abingdon, Md.) this year, but she couldn't beat LoManto.
A 5-foot-3 Northwestern signee from Rocky Point (Miller Place, N.Y.), LoManto played the second half for the North and made six saves.
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Final Four in store?
Princeton and Virginia tied for the most commitments from members of the boys' Under Armour All-America Lacrosse teams, with each university securing six players.
Virginia's haul is highlighted by Steele Stanwick of Loyola Blakefield (Baltimore, Md.), the No. 1 player in the ESPN RISE Class of 2008 rankings. The Cavaliers will also welcome Nos. 7 and 8 in the rankings, Peter Borror of Haverford (Media, Penn.) and Chris Bocklet of John Jay (South Salem, N.Y.), respectively.
Princeton will add No. 5 senior Chad Wiedmaier of Delbarton Prep (Chatham, N.J.) and Chanenchuk.